From Sunday, Auckland Transport are making a large number of changes to many public transport services around Auckland. These changes are a mixed bag, some routes will see additional services added, such as more ferry sailings to Hobsonville Point, while other services are being reduced or cut entirely, though as I pointed out when it was announced last year, that’s not always a bad thing as many are expensive to operate, peak only services.
One of the more important changes is the splitting up of the 380 bus between Onehunga and Manukau via the Airport. This will see the Onehunga to airport section become the frequent 38. Meanwhile, the airport to Manukau section will become known as the Airport Link and once the awesome new Puhinui interchange is completed, will shift using it, instead of going via Papatoetoe. It will also make use of the new bus lanes being added to
The Airport Link will exclusively use electric buses and yesterday AT launched them.
Today Auckland Transport (AT), together with Auckland Airport and Waka Kotahi, introduced South Auckland’s first fully electric bus service. This marks the second electric fleet launch for the Auckland region – following the Waiheke electric vehicle launch in 2020.
The new AirportLink service, which will run from Sunday 24 January, will provide key transport connections between Manukau and Auckland Airport, via Papatoetoe. When the Puhinui Station Interchange opens in June, the service will travel along a more direct route along bus priority lanes.
The project is an early improvement from the Southwest Gateway Programme, which will provide safer and more reliable travel choices to move around south and east Auckland. Operated by Go Bus, the nine buses for the new AirportLink service have been built by Yutong, with supply and support from JW Group.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says, “as well as making it faster and more convenient to travel to the Airport and its employment precinct, once the new Puhinui Station Interchange opens in June, the new fully electric AirportLink fleet will help reduce carbon emissions from Auckland’s transport network – contributing towards achieving our climate change goals.
“Transport accounts for more than 40 per cent of Auckland’s carbon emissions, so it’s important that we provide emissions-free options as part of our commitment to respond to climate change.” Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board Chair Lotu Fuli says the fleet is another step towards safer and more reliable travel choices in South and East Auckland. “Working towards a low-emissions public transport network and providing alternatives to private vehicles is an essential part of reducing our impact on global warming and heading off a climate change disaster.”
Chair of AT’s board of directors, Adrienne Young-Cooper, says AT’s recent trials proved that the new electric buses can operate for a full shift on a single charge, while providing an improved customer experience. “AT’s commitment to not procuring diesel buses from 2025 is complemented by our Low Emission Bus Roadmap. This commits to transitioning the entire public transport bus fleet from diesel to low emission (electric and hydrogen) by 2040.”
“This new fleet has been designed specifically for those connecting to and from Auckland Airport, so there is dedicated luggage space for travellers. There is also modified priority seating areas, improving customer safety.”
and here it is IRL! pic.twitter.com/C3JSXCOw0k
— Auckland Transport (@AklTransport) January 20, 2021
In even better news, it also seems that AT now want to speed up the introduction of electric buses with Newsroom reporting yesterday that effectively from now there will be no more new diesel buses purchased in Auckland.
Public transport operators are being told to not buy any more diesel buses or risk losing their council contracts, as Auckland Transport brings forward its plans to completely electrify its network by a whole decade.
The Council had previously committed its transport organisation to stop funding new diesel buses from 2025, and to phase out all the existing ones by 2040 – but its subsidiary has now brought that forward to 2030 – subject to Council funding.
Darek Koper, Auckland Transport’s head of bus services, said that completing the transition by 2030 would reduce Auckland’s transport carbon emissions to just over 10 percent of the 93,000 tonnes they were emitting in 2019 – an 80,000 tonne reduction. It would reduce noise pollution, and improve air quality – especially in the CBD – with zero tailpipe emissions.
That would bring with it a $166 million reduction in social costs, from pollution and poor health.
Last night, Phil Goff told Newsroom the council intended to budget to replace the diesels that make up most of the city’s 1352-bus fleet; already, the Government has pledged funding. He said Auckland Transport would not fund any new diesel buses from July (though it is understood the transport organisation is telling bus operators to stop buying diesel vehicles right now).
It was Goff who signed Auckland up to the Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets Declaration at the Paris C40 meeting in 2017, setting targets that seem less ambitious now than they did at the time. “With the increasing knowledge we have of carbon emissions and the impact of climate change – scientists now telling us we’ve got less than a decade to fix the problem – I wanted to improve on that by bringing forward the goal of no further purchase of carbon-emitting vehicles from 2025 to 2021.”
He is not yet ready to commit to funding Auckland Transport’s goal to completely phase out the diesel buses by 2030, though.
Darek Koper said the existing contracts with bus operators required about $360 million this year to run bus services. That annual operational cost would need to progressively increase by up to $27 million annually by 2027, to cover the more expensive technology and 2.6 percent annual fleet growth. But after that, it would drop as the cost of operating services with electric buses is expected to start dropping below that of diesel buses.
This is great news and speeding up the rollout is exactly what AT should be doing. Not only are electric buses better for the environment, they’re also much nicer to ride on because of how quiet they are. Great work Darek in getting it to this point. Let’s hope the council and government come through with the funding needed to achieve this.